Spinal tumors are not commonly talked about, but they do happen. Tumors are an abnormal growth of cells that can occur anywhere in the body, even the spine. Spinal tumors occur in two places, either between the vertebrae or along the spinal canal. Just like other tumors, they are either benign or malignant. All spinal tumors are not cancerous. Tumors are given different names depending upon where the tumor is located. The location also affects the severity of the tumor. Your symptoms can be mild or very severe. If the tumor is resting on the nerves, it could be debilitating. Treatment is dependent upon a lot of things as well. If you think you may have a spinal tumor, you should seek treatment as soon as possible. Do not ignore the signs and symptoms.
The spine is a long narrow structure. Vertebrae and disc come together to form the spine. Many of the bones in the body are hollow through the center. The vertebrae, on the other hand, are extremely hollow, to the point you can see right through them. Put your hands together and make a circle. That is what the vertebrae look like. The circle is not large, but it gives enough room for the spinal cord to go through the middle. Any inflammation or abnormalities of the disc can cause a lot of problems. These things put pressure on the nerves of the spine. Since there is already not a lot of room in the spine, a tumor can cause a lot of damage.
Types of Tumors
Tumors are categorized based on their pathology. Some tumors are malignant, and others are benign. Cancer cells make up malignant tumors. Cancer cells are cells whose DNA has been changed either by mutation or other things like viruses. These cells grow uncontrollably and are difficult to kill. These cells create masses that can sometimes become very large. Benign tumors are a mass of normal cells. It is not life-threatening, but it can sometimes cause problems, especially if the mass is on the nerves. The location also defines tumors. Tumors inside the spinal column are called spinal cord tumors. There are two types of spinal cord tumors: intramedullary and extramedullary tumors. Intramedullary tumors occur among the cells in the spinal cord. Extramedullary occurs in the cells around the spinal cord but still in the spinal column. Tumors outside the spinal column along the vertebrae are called vertebral tumors.
Spinal Tumor Causes
The question you may have is what causes spinal tumors. There are a few different causes of spinal tumors. Each cause is rooted in genetic factors. Neurofibromatosis is one disease that leads to the production of tumors along the spinal cord. These tumors are noncancerous and tend to affect hearing. Another cause of tumors is a history of cancer. If you have had cancer before, you are at a higher risk of having tumors in the spinal cord. If there is a family history of tumors in the spine, you may also be at risk. Other diseases cause tumors to develop in the blood vessels. If you suffer from these types of diseases, you may have noncancerous tumors in the spinal column.
Spinal Cord Tumor Symptoms
There are many different symptoms of spinal tumors. Back pain is the most common symptom. The pressure put on the discs and bones in the back can create a lot of discomforts which cause the back pain. Another symptom is numbness, weakness, or tingling. These symptoms are a result of pressure on the nerves. The loss of sensation is typically felt in the extremities. It then becomes difficult to walk, and you may have trouble using your arms to do things. Tumors can, unfortunately, affect bowel and bladder control. Sometimes they rest on the nerves that control these functions. Many times you lose control. You may also find that it is difficult to feel pain as well as changes in temperature. If the tumor continues to grow, it will only make the symptoms worse. If the tumor is not treated quickly, the damage may be permanent, and cancer will spread throughout the body.
Spinal Tumor Treatment
If the tumor is small, noncancerous, and not causing any symptoms, you may not need any treatment. The doctor will just monitor the tumor to make sure it is not growing and causing life-threatening problems. If a tumor is in a location where removal will not cause any damage, the doctor may choose to remove it. This prevents future symptoms. Cancerous tumors may be treated with radiation therapy. Sometimes chemotherapy is done. Radiation is usually the first method of choice because it targets the tumor, decreasing damage to the surrounding areas. It is best to talk with your doctor about what treatment will be best for you.
Spinal tumors are serious in that they can have many complications. The complications of the spinal tumors stem from problems it creates in the back and on the nerves. If the tumor is diagnosed early, it can be treated without causing permanent damage. If you notice symptoms, do not ignore them. Find a spine surgeon and get immediate care.
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